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London to Normandy & Brittany; best way through Paris?

London to Normandy & Brittany; best way through Paris?

Dec 2nd, 2011, 02:48 PM
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London to Normandy & Brittany; best way through Paris?

Visiting London next Sept/Oct. Looking at including a trip to the west coast of France, hiring a car and driving.

Is our best travel option through Paris or is there a shorter/easier route? Early days of planning at this stage. Any suggestions.
aussie_10 is offline  
Dec 2nd, 2011, 03:54 PM
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You could take a ferry to Calais and begin your trip in Normandy and Brittany there. This would give you the opportunity to see some of Picardie as well as upper Normandy.


I also wrote a trip report that starts in Ghent; click on my name to find it.
Michael is online now  
Dec 2nd, 2011, 04:14 PM
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There's no point going all the way over to Paris just to backtrack into Normandy.
Underhill is offline  
Dec 2nd, 2011, 05:31 PM
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Thank you for your replies. Beautiful photos Michael. I will read your trip report later this evening. The ferry sounds like a good option and then maybe hire a car from Calais. Does it go from Dover. I guess there would be trains from London. But does that then add in lots chopping and changing?

Yes Underhill, that was my thinking too. Don't like wasting valuable time back tracking. But just looking foe the best options and it is always good to ask people who have some knowledge or experience.
aussie_10 is offline  
Dec 2nd, 2011, 10:06 PM
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There are direct trains from London to Calais, or Lille as an alternative.
Michael is online now  
Dec 3rd, 2011, 01:16 AM
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You might want to research Brittany Ferries, their Portsmouth to Caen, Cherbourg or St Malo routes. We just used them three weeks ago, Caen to Portsmouth return. On the Portsmouth-Caen run we booked an outside cabin for the 6.5 hr crossing, which was from 10:45 pm to 6:00 am (7:00 am France). Breakfast is available on board.

It was good to get some sleep as we faced a long drive from Caen. On the overnight runs, booking some sort of accommodation is required, choices include reclining seats in a lounge, inside or outside cabins (2 or 4 berth with loos) and cabins which sleep three with wider twin beds. More expensive than the ferries out of Calais but much more convient for us given our UK and France destinations.

Very clean ferry and efficient boarding. Walk-on passengers are bused right to the ship, ahead of or during the car loading. On our Caen-Portsmouth trip we ate dinner on board, choices were a very good self service restaurant, a more upscale resto and large bar and lounge opening on to the aft deck. That crossing was roughly 4:30 pm to 11:00 pm (10:00 pm UK time).

Cathinjoetown is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2011, 01:34 AM
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hi aussie,

i was thinking about Portsmouth -Caen as well. you could either get the train to Portsmouth and travel as foot passengers to Caen, picking up your car there, or hire your car in London and take it from there.

THat's probably easier if you are intending to return to the UK after you've toured Normandy and Brittany; if you aren't, then travelling as a foot passenger and picking up your car in France will avoid high one-way drop-off charges.

a slightly different option - if you are going to hire a car in the UK and return there after your trip, you could get the ferry from Portsmouth-Caen as suggested above, and catch the Roscoff -Plymouth one back. that would make sense if you toured Normandy THEN Brittany; Roscoff is in Northern Brittany. The journey back from Plymouth could take you through Devon and southern England - you could take a few days about it if you liked.
annhig is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2011, 02:18 AM
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Not to hi-jack the thread, but I've been thinking of doing this as well. If the end destination is say Caen/Bayeux I'm not so sure these other options are necessarily faster.

Eurostar to Paris (2hrs) and Paris to Caen (2 hrs) plus whatever it takes to change in Paris (1-2 hrs).

The ferry to Caen is 7 hrs plus the time to get to Portsmouth.

The drive from Calais is 4-5 hrs (okay if you have other sites to see and time to see them). Trains from Calais or Lille are also in the 4-5 hour range with a change.

I had hoped for a quick weekend trip but there's nothing quick about it. Am I missing something?
indy_dad is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2011, 02:41 AM
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indy- dad, no you aren't. unless you live near one of the south coast ports [we are 90 mins from Plymouth] a weekend in Normandy or Brittany isn't really on. However, there is quite a lot to see in the area east of calais - which is easily accessible though the channel tunnel and you could see quite a lot in a weekend.

when we lived in Kent we did this quite often for a day trip -for example lunch in Arras, a run on the beach at Etaples, tea in Boulogne, home by bed-time. with a weekend you could go further afield to Dieppe for example, or even Rouen, but don't overlook calais or Boulogne - they are both very interesting and are well worth a half-day each.

have a look here for some ideas: http://www.innsoffrance.com/hotels/lower-normandy/
annhig is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2011, 03:33 AM
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Cathieinjotown and annhig thank you for your excellent replies, many good ideas and I appreciate the first hand knowledge. If we hired a car in the UK it would be easier to drive for us, but then it would be the driving a right hand drive car on left hand drive roads. Oh my gosh I think it might be even harder.

indy_dad, I don't mind your imput it all helps to look at all the options and there are many good suggestions.

Thanks for the link annhig
aussie_10 is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2011, 03:33 AM
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No, Portsmouth-Caen isn't necessarily faster, depends on your UK departure point as annig said and whether or not you want to cut drive time.

If you took the Friday night ferry to Caen or St. Malo, depending if you want to be further west, you would have all day Saturday and Sunday until around 3:30 pm, when you have to check in for the ferry.

I would prefer three days, but you could do this, over to St Malo, back from Caen or whatever combination works. I think Brittany Ferries offers weekend break packages.
Cathinjoetown is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2011, 03:40 AM
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Oh Cathinjoetown you have listed some very good ideas. Many more than I had originally thought of.

Are the seas very rough on the crossings?
aussie_10 is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2011, 04:13 AM
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I have taken the ferries from Portsmouth and Southampton to Oustreham, near Caen, and also to Cherbourg - the tourist heart of Normandy - there are overnight ferries and now catamarans that do it in a few hours - be sure to scour advance online discounts as low as about $50 when I last went.
PalenQ is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2011, 04:32 AM
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It can get rough but in very strong winds or seas they won't sail. This happened two years ago to my husband on a Dover-Calais run, delayed three hours.

On our recent trip there was some sea swell and I could feel the ship swaying. We could hear car alarms going off, which never lasted more than 10 sec., they must usr a universal de-activator.

I enjoyed it for a change and for avoiding the traffic around Paris.
Cathinjoetown is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2011, 04:33 AM
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"Are the seas very rough on the crossings?"

They can be.
Hooameye is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2011, 05:43 AM
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Link to my pics and trip report for the region, in case it helpsbr />

If you are driving, your best route is almost certainly not through Paris, as you would be better taking a car on one of the ferries or even through Eurotunnel. If you opt to go by train, you can change at Lille, which is also much easier than crossing Paris to change stations. So either way, Paris is a 'non' (unless you want a stay of 2-3 days in that city to form part of your trip).

The ferry crossings are usually ok, but can occasionally be quite unpleasant. In the trip report posted in my link, my brother and his girlfriend met us in France after coming by car ferry from Plymouth. It was so rough that they were actually contemplating returning by Eurotunnel, even though it would have considerably added to the time and expense, being miles out of their way. And my brother sails, and has his own boat........ Not saying this is an every day occurrance, but just so you know.
RM67 is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2011, 05:49 AM
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yes the seas can be very rough, but usually they aren't - very few sailings are cancelled due to bad weather. these are big stable boats built to withstand the worst that the channel can throw at them. After all, some of these trips are 6-7 hours, and the ones that go to Spain are 24 hours, across the notorious Bay of Biscay, so there is plenty of time for a storm to blow up after they have sailed.

i am an awful sailor [ i suffer from appalling sea-sickness and have been sea-sick on dry land - actually in the Med!] but a couple of sea-sickness tablet taken 2 or so house before sailing have worked very well.

please don't let the thought of bad weather put you off.
annhig is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2011, 07:56 AM
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There are several ways to get to Normandy/Brittany areas. I would say that none of them should include Paris in the route.
It's quite a way out of the way.

Your going to hire a car so my suggestion would be make your way to either Newhaven take the ferry to Dieppe.
or Portsmouth to Le Havre/Cherbourg/Caen
I always use:

Dover /Calais is a nice short crossing but leaves you quite a drive to get to much of Normandy.

The ferries are quite big so sea sickness shouldn't be a problem. Some routes use the fast ferry, which is a bit more rough, but its a couple of hours faster so weigh it up.

Would it not be better to hire the car in France?

Mucky is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2011, 08:45 AM
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We've driven left-hand drive cars in the UK and right-hand cars in France. For us, it wasn't an issue at all. I actually think sitting in the passenger seat is more disconcerting!

If doing night driving, you're meant to mask your headlights and France requires orange reflection vests to be put on if you step out of the car on the verge.

Check with AA or the RAC for current requirements. Cheap vests are sold at autoroute garages. I know vests are undershirts in the UK but it seems weird to call the orange things waistcoats.
Cathinjoetown is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2011, 08:56 AM
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Cheap vests are sold at autoroute garages.>>

and on the ferries along with maps, headlamp converters, first aid kits, reflective triangles - the works.

they also have restaurants, cafes, shops and even [some of them] cinemas.
annhig is offline  

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